Short story: Bobbing for apples

 

27 October 2010

The annual Cape Town Horrorfest kicked off tonight with the second Bloody Parchment event at the Lounge of Horror (Book Lounge).

Some of SA’s best writers, like Sarah Lotz and Maya Fowler entertained the crowd with something scary, and in Sarah’s case, a sneak peak at her new novel, The Mall.

I wrote a little something short and sweet for the occasion. It was particularly fun seeing the audience cringe at the more grislier parts. Hope you enjoy!

 

Bobbing for apples

I wasn’t supposed to be excited about Halloween. As my mom said, “We don’t want you wandering around by yourself at night.”
I wasn’t supposed to be friends with the girl across the street either, only she never gave me a reason for that.
I’d visit Lyndell in the afternoons before my mom got home from work. Her house was bordered by a make-shift corrugated iron gate, like the entrance to a junk yard. We’d sit on her front porch with its tendrils of cracks, always keeping an ear open for the coughing of my mom’s car, while her dog Whiskey howled and howled. She said it was because her family never fed it. She lied like that a lot. She once told me that she had buried a cat in a shoebox in the back yard, which I didn’t believe for a second. But for all her lies, Lyndell told the best stories. She told me about how they used to burn people on poles to use as lamps in ancient Rome, and about demons that wore people’s bodies like coats without them even knowing.
On the afternoon of Halloween I made my way through the overgrown dandelions and weeds to the back of her house. My skull felt prickly, which happens when I’m overexcited.
Lyndell was waiting beneath the rotten fig tree, which smelled both sweet and sour at once. Starlings hopped around her black leather lace ups to peck at the fallen fruit alive with white maggots and ants. I noticed she was still wearing her faded blue school uniform, her hair braided into cute school girl pigtails. A black ribbon dangled from her left hand.
That’s when I noticed the Castrol oil drum filled with water.
“Did you bring the apples?” she asked.
I held up the bag and her lip curled into a Cheshire Cat smile.
“Throw them in the water.”
I upended the Shoprite bag over the side of drum, sending the ruby red apples tumbling down where they bobbed on the surface like bouys.
“If you catch an apple in your mouth, and throw the skin over your shoulder, its supposed to land as the first letter of your true love’s name.”
“Is that what we’re doing? Is that what the blindfold is for?”
She rolled her eyes. “Duh,”
Without speaking, she whipped the black ribbon across my eyes and pushed me forward. I staggered, but quickly recovered. I didn’t like being blindfolded. Even though I could hear the Starlings hoot, and Whiskey howling in the front yard, I felt uncertain of my surroundings. I lifted my arms in front of me as if I was playing Marco Polo, extending my fingers until I finally felt the warped, rusty edge of the drum. As I leaned down I could hear the thud, thud of the apples hitting the side. I knew I was close to the surface, but I hesitated. The water smelled stale, like it had been standing for days.
Behind me, Lyndell started making chicken noises.
“I’m doing it,” I shouted.
I leaned down and opened my mouth, biting at nothing but my own teeth. I tried again, and my chin nudged an apple, sending it bouncing in the opposite direction.
“This is hard,” I whined.
“Just keep trying.”
I stuck my face in the water, turning left and right until I felt something close. I opened my mouth wide and bit down triumphantly, but whatever it was tasted horrible. It was soft and mouldy, like a ball of dead leaves, only it tasted so, so bitter. I spat whatever it was back into the water, pulling the blindfold down around my neck.
As the world clicked back into place I could see little dead mice floating among the apples, their tiny faces screwed up in silent squeals. I watched as the one I had just bit into sank below the surface, leaving behind a trail of slimy grey entrails.
I turned to Lyndell in shock, but couldn’t find my voice.
She stared at me with her neck craned like one of the starlings that littered her garden.
“Happy Halloween,” she said.

© S.A. Partridge

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